WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) – Allowing trained pharmacists to dispense emergency contraceptive pills to women who have had unprotected intercourse can prevent unwanted pregnancy and save money, according to researchers in Washington State.
Emergency contraception is most effective in preventing unintended pregnancy when started within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, Dr. Sean D. Sullivan, and colleagues at the University of Washington, Seattle, explain in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Since pharmacists are more readily available than physicians at short notice, they examined the potential benefits of delivering emergency contraception in the pharmacy setting.
In 1997, the investigators collected data on the cost and efficacy of pharmacist-prescribed emergency contraception in a pilot study in Washington State. They used these results in a decision model to determine the benefits of this approach relative to physician-prescribed emergency contraception.
The pharmacist model saved private and public payers $158 and $48, respectively, per woman having unprotected intercourse, Dr. Sullivan and colleagues say. Moreover, taking into account the efficacy of more recently developed emergency contraceptive pills increased the cost savings to an average of $179 and $57 for private and public payers.
"Decision makers may consider implementing similar programs elsewhere to reduce the burden of unintended pregnancy and its associated costs," the Washington team recommends.